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ALP leadership challenge: Minister for Administrative Services confirms the leadership challenge and discusses the likely outcome.

PAUL MURPHY: Another Minister, the senior Left Faction Cabinet Minister, Senator Nick Bolkus from South Australia, has confirmed that the leadership challenge is on, but he confirmed that the support of the Left faction is firmly behind the Prime Minister. And a few moments ago, he told Fran Kelly that he believes Bob Hawke will survive as leader.

NICK BOLKUS: I can't confirm anything that might have happened behind private doors, but it seems as if there's a challenge on.

FRAN KELLY: And if we can take it as true that a challenge is on, does that mean the challenge won't actually occur until the Caucus room next Tuesday?

NICK BOLKUS: I can't imagine so. I think the first opportunity would be next week, and if it's on, it's up to those who are wanting to try it on to bring it on, I think. Next Tuesday's the first Federal Caucus meeting. I can't see there's an opportunity before that for it to be handled.

FRAN KELLY: And what would you say was a likely outcome of such a leadership challenge?

NICK BOLKUS: Look, I think my view is that the leadership should be supported. Bob Hawke has led us to four election victories, against the odds, in the past. He's a person who always bounces back, and I think his capacity for providing direction is still very much there. I'm quite confident that he'll be re-elected if the challenge is on next week, and I think he'll do so with the overwhelming majority of the Caucus.

FRAN KELLY: Well, that's your opinion, and you're a senior Left-Wing Cabinet Minister. Would you say that would be the opinion of all of the Left?

NICK BOLKUS: Look, I haven't picked up a trend within the Left to indicate otherwise. I think we've been reported, over the last few months, as being solidly behind the Prime Minister, and I've picked up nothing to indicate any change to that. Now of course, you have had a few people who have been agitating very actively over recent months, but they are the same ones now entertaining as were a few months ago. That hasn't really, I don't think, in any way changed the direction of the Left on this particular issue. I think we are as strong now as we were and have been over the last year.

FRAN KELLY: Well, if the Left remains strong behind Bob Hawke then it would mean a change in his own faction. Is that true, that it would make a change in the numbers?

NICK BOLKUS: Look, obviously being in Canberra, we spend a fair bit of time with Caucus Members and we're Caucus members ourselves, and the basic point, I think, is that amongst all the factions there is support for the Prime Minister - some stronger than others. My understanding is that within his own faction he has very strong support, and I'd be very surprised if he was to lose that support.

FRAN KELLY: So, your prediction, if a leadership challenge is on, on Tuesday, is that Bob Hawke would remain as leader of Australia?

NICK BOLKUS: I'm sure he will, and I think he'll do so with a very strong vote. I think it's very unfortunate this has brought on, and I think given the fact that you're talking about someone who, I must admit, I haven't been close to in the past, but I've worked with quite well over recent years, a person who has been unprecedented in his historical achievements for the Australian Labor Party; someone who has led us to four elections; someone who still is in front of the Opposition Leader in terms of his popularity as preferred Prime Minister; and someone who still has enormous drive. I don't think the Labor Party ever, in it's history, has rejected a person who has done so much for it. I think it would be unprecedented if we were to do it now, and I'd be prepared to lay a bet that we wouldn't do it now.

PAUL MURPHY: Left-Wing Cabinet Minister, Nick Bolkus with Fran Kelly.